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Black & White: Creature Isle

Brush up on your miracles, god dude. It's time once again to don saintly robes and take control of your portion of the playing universe.

Black & White: Creature Isle, an add-on for one of the more entertaining god games ever to soak up our leisure hours, is now ready for the Mac. Much as we loved playing god--controlling an interactive environment, recruiting dedicated worshipers, working miracles, and generally lording it over an entire virtual population--Creature Isle delves deep into one of the best elements of the game: the care and rearing of your creature (an animal minion who does much of the god's busywork in Black & White).

If you played the original Black & White, you know what it's like to be an inexperienced godlet, faced with a bewildering mix of challenges: combat, long-range strategy, puzzles, resource management, creature rearing, and a need to control villages by getting the inhabitants to worship you over competing gods.

So what could Creature Isle possibly change in this busy world? A lot. This time you're on a new island, with no competing gods. You find yourself (and your pet creature) surrounded by a host of various wild-animal folk who have formed a communal organization called the Brotherhood. Your creature is invited to join their ranks, but must first undergo a series of difficult trials designed to weed out unworthy critters.

Creature Isle offers a refreshing twist on Black & White in that it spares you the mundane godly duties of impressing and caring for your devotees and the tedious micromanagement of villages. Your primary concern is the same thing that made the first game so much fun--rearing and training your creature--only this time the creature develops and trains its own pet critter (a giant chicken named Tyke).

So you spend your time guiding your creature through 18 arcade-style tasks to gain acceptance into the Brotherhood. You shoot marbles, go bowling, play soccer, fire a gigantic crossbow, run foot races, play hide-and-seek, and even take potshots at dolphins. Some of the tests are easy; a fair number are not just difficult but downright frustrating until you discover their secrets. Each test has a gimmick that makes passing much easier. For example, you must race a turtle (not unlike the tortoise and the hare), and until you figure out that cheating is allowed and you can take shortcuts, you'll have trouble winning the race.

The creatures that inhabit the beautifully colorful island include marble-playing apes, bowling cows, soccer-playing baboons, and even a break-dancing leopard with a British accent. The visuals are rich and vivid, the sound effects are excellent, and the creatures' AI will push you to your limits.

Black & White fans will enjoy this expansion. Without management of all those villages, Creature Isle doesn't feel the same, but for newcomers and impatient gamers that's a plus. Now you can focus entirely on training your creature. Just try not to get all sentimental when you're watching it raise its own little critter. —John Lee

GOOD NEWS: Beautiful visuals. Imaginative critters. Lots of arcade-style games. Lacks original game's tedious micromanagement.
BAD NEWS: Complex and difficult-to-handle-at-first interface.
COMPANY: Feral Interactive
PRICE: $40
REQUIREMENTS: Power Mac, Mac OS 8.6 or 10.1.3 or later, 128MB RAM, OpenGL graphics with 8MB VRAM